Prelude to a Summons

For some reason, I haven't been getting any mail this week. None of the usual catalogs I never requested, none of the usual liberal charities that The Nation sold my address to for forty pieces of silver, nothing.

But I got mail today: A New York County Juror Qualification Questionnaire. Apparently this is the prelude to a summons to jury duty; since I am a US citizen, a resident of New York County, at least 18 years old, can understand and communicate in English, have never been convicted of a felony, and have not served as a juror within the last 4 years I meet all the qualifications to be called to pass judgment upon my fellow citizens.

I feel the chances of my actually serving are pretty slim, considering that I'm a law student and lawyers tend to prefer not to have jurors who are too educated in the law. There are good reasons for this. Lawyers want to be able to control the jury. They want the jurors to focus on the relevant facts and apply the law as it is given. What they don't want is a smart-ass know-it-all law student pointing out some silly inconsistency in one side's case and making a big deal out of it, or introducing nuances and alternative interpretations of the law other than the ones given by the judge. They don't want jurors who will play the judge and try the case themselves in the deliberating room. It's not that legally educated jurors are more likely to convict or acquit, it's that legally educatd jurors are less likely to follow instructions and act like a juror.

But there is the possibility I will serve. I've had law professor who served on juries, and if anyone's likely to pervert the course of jury deliberations it's a law professor.

And in related news, Japan is going to be using juries for criminal trials starting next year. This is in marked contrast to much of the rest of the world, which gives regular citizens little, if any, role in the judicial process. It'll be interesting to see how that works out.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on July 21, 2007 1:32 PM.

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